Tuesday, March 22, 2011

More on fighting writer's block

I suffer from writer's laziness, but that's a common ailment.

Salon reviews an upcoming movie and a book that looks interesting on the subject of writer's block.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

carving again

I will need to switch to some other tools to finish it but a friend did recognize the form as an owl, so i must be doing something right.

I also need to find a place to sharpen knives and chisels.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Pre-school shouldn't be school

I had always felt and seem to have heard, now and again, that younger children need more unstructured play and less formal teaching.  Slate has an interesting article on the subject: Why Pre-school Shouldn't Be Like School.

Some excerpts:
Perhaps direct instruction can help children learn specific facts and skills, but what about curiosity and creativity—abilities that are even more important for learning in the long run? Two forthcoming studies in the journal Cognition—one from a lab at MITand one from my lab at UC-Berkeley—suggest that the doubters are on to something. While learning from a teacher may help children get to a specific answer more quickly, it also makes them less likely to discover new information about a problem and to create a new and unexpected solution.
...
In the first study, MIT professor Laura Schulz, her graduate student Elizabeth Bonawitz, and their colleagues looked at how 4-year-olds learned about a new toy with four tubes. Each tube could do something interesting: If you pulled on one tube it squeaked, if you looked inside another tube you found a hidden mirror, and so on. For one group of children, the experimenter said: "I just found this toy!" As she brought out the toy, she pulled the first tube, as if by accident, and it squeaked. She acted surprised ("Huh! Did you see that? Let me try to do that!") and pulled the tube again to make it squeak a second time. With the other children, the experimenter acted more like a teacher. She said, "I'm going to show you how my toy works. Watch this!" and deliberately made the tube squeak. Then she left both groups of children alone to play with the toy.
All of the children pulled the first tube to make it squeak. The question was whether they would also learn about the other things the toy could do. The children from the first group played with the toy longer and discovered more of its "hidden" features than those in the second group. In other words, direct instruction made the children less curious and less likely to discover new information. 

-- As an aside, note that Blogger has given the above three paragraphs different fonts.  I have not idea why is should switch like that.  Anyway, near the end, the article discusses how the teacher is viewed:
 ...if you know how teachers work, you tend to assume that they are trying to be informative. When the teacher in the tube-toy experiment doesn't go looking for hidden features inside the tubes, the learner unconsciously thinks: "She's a teacher. If there were something interesting in there, she would have showed it to me." These assumptions lead children to narrow in, and to consider just the specific information a teacher provides. Without a teacher present, children look for a much wider range of information and consider a greater range of options.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Boingboing Link dump

Doodling, good for you.
...Brown says, the fact that they are doodling means they probably are paying attention. "Doodling is a pre-emptive measure to stop you from losing focus." Research has shown that you retain information better when it is combined with some kind of stimulus. Doodling helps with retaining information, because when you are doodling it engages four types of stimulation: visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic.

On to more contemporary authors and modern publishing methods.  Amanda Hocking couldn't find a publisher so she self-published online, is charging a low rate because she has little overhead and because she collects almost the entire fee herself.   Boingboing, USA Today and Novelr.
From Novelr:
Amanda Hocking is 26* years old. She has 9 self-published books to her name, and sells 100,000+ copies of those ebooks per month. She has never been traditionally published.
From Novelr, but I think quoted from her own blog:
If you’re an indie writer, you get to sell books at a price way, way lower than what a Traditional Publisher can sell at. And yet you make more money, because your only costs are to an ebook and cover art designer (whereas the traditional publisher has to support a legacy system, plus the traditionally published author gets a 30% cut, while you get 70%).
In the meantime, readers are more inclined to buy your stories, even if you’re an unknown author, simply because your book prices are cheaper. So you get high sales, low ebook prices, but high revenue once you’ve hit sufficient scale. And the best thing is that it’s infinitely scalable: your ebooks are out there, getting sales every single day. No shelf-space, no print runs to worry about.
I had figured this out some time ago.  Offering a low price, but selling many copies is entirely possible with e-books and I foresee this occurring more and more.  I will soon buy one of her books to be able to comment more knowledgeably because I do have a concern.  Quality.  As she wrote, with a low price, more people will be able to take a chance.  Traditional publishers offer some degree of quality control.
John Scalzi, an author published in traditional and self-/e- format, has made a bingo card of most of the arguments for and against e-publishing.

I read an author who followed the low-tech path in this regard.  He published his own books in hard-copy ( but softcover) and the one I read, Frozen Beneath, was terrible.

Another literature project is the Electronic Literature Collection, Volume Two.

And some advice for writers (this one isn't form BB but from Salon): Skip the scenery.
By far the most common gripe from readers was too much description, particularly environmental description -- that is, of landscape, weather and interiors. This complaint struck me as especially pertinent because at that very moment I was trying to decide whether or not to recommend Tea Obreht's "The Tiger's Wife" in our weekly book column, What to Read. Obreht, recently named one of the New Yorker's 20 best writers under 40, is undeniably talented, and the novel has much to recommend it. Yet no sooner does Obreht's narrative work up a little momentum or present a masterful scene than it hits a patch of long, dozy paragraphs filled with way too much detail about the scenery.

As a child, I daydreamed in class of building a submarine from an oil tank - the one's I saw were long and cylindrical with a lump for where a conning tower would go - and imagined the adventures I would have in it in Georgian Bay.  This story isn't so cute, but I still found it interesting: Columbian Narcotics Submarine.